Movie review: 'The Fourth Kind'

"I am actress Milla Jovovich," the star says directly to the audience as she introduces her new movie, "The Fourth Kind."

And those are pretty much the last true words out of her mouth in this gimmicky, "Yes, this really happened" alien-abduction horror hooey.

It's a film whose writer-director is so heavily invested in making us buy into it as "fact" that he wastes screen time on claims of veracity when he should have invested his movie with a few more genuinely hair-raising moments.

Because even if his and his star's pants are on fire at this very moment, "The Fourth Kind" still manages a few good frights.

"Close Encounters" fans will recognize the title. Alien sighting, close encounter of the first kind; making friends and phoning home, close encounter of the third kind; kidnapped, probed, poked and freaked out of your mind? That's "a close encounter of the fourth kind."

Jovovich plays a Nome, Alaska, psychotherapist whose husband has died and whose sleep-deprived patients are telling her chilling, cryptic stories of owls and abduction when she puts them under hypnosis.

The conceit that writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi milks for all it's worth is that the "real" Dr. Abigail Tyler is shown in a video interview with the director for Chapman University, in which a cadaverous-looking actress narrates her story, her encounters with patients who flipped out and even killed themselves over what they'd experienced.

Osunsanmi, a protege of Joe "Smokin' Aces" Carnahan, uses split screens to show "real" police video and "real" hypnosis session video playing out opposite his actors re-enacting those moments. With "found video" again igniting the horror-movie market, these hucksters must be kicking themselves that the long-shelved "Paranormal Activity" came out a month before this one, stealing their whole video veritas thunder. The video conveniently distorts at every payoff-shot moment - victims levitating, their mouths distorting to roar some ancient language that some "expert" identifies as Sumerian, as if anybody knows what Sumerian sounded like.

"What you believe is yours to decide" is the awkward way actor and director make their case. OK.

The "reality" scenes are chilling enough, but the movie isn't helped by a blank-faced turn by Jovovich, channeling her decades as a "if you smile or frown, you'll wrinkle" model. She was never an actress with much range, but she was so much better in September's "A Perfect Getaway" that it's as if she were confused by the demand that she keep breaking the fourth wall in "The Fourth Kind," telling us she's an actress.

Elias Koteas is here to play therapist to the therapist, though he doesn't lend the credibility you'd expect. Only Will Patton, as a sheriff and a guy who doesn't have to turn to the camera to insist he's not lying, finds pathos and fear in what's happening in his town.

Movies with actors are always fictional, even if based on a true story. There's pretending, suspending of disbelief and fibbing going on. "The Fourth Kind" is a fraud, but that wouldn't matter if it were scarier and better acted.


Two stars

STARRING: Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Will Patton

RATED: PG-13 for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality

RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 38 minutes